Category Archives: faith

Play Mean but Play Clean

dick-butkus-coverWhat comes to mind for you when you hear the name Dick Butkus? Immediately, I think along the lines of the caption on this Sports Illustrated cover … “Dick Butkus of the Bears – The most feared man in the game (NFL Football)”. No doubt, many others (especially those of my generation) share that same first thought. And, there’s ample justification for that line of thinking. The 6 ft 3 in, 245 lb Butkus, was known as one of the most feared and intimidating linebackers during his nine years as a player for the Chicago Bears.

Next, you may think of Dick Butkus as a celebrity endorser and actor. That’s my next thought too. And, here too, there’s plenty of good reason for thinking that way. The “most feared man in the game” persona of this Pro Football Hall of Fame member has been very effective in promoting brand names, from his Miller Lite commercials with Bubba Smith  to his “I’m sorry, Dick Butkus” spots for FedEx. And, Butkus has had numerous roles on TV and in the movies. He was even the namesake for Rocky’s English Mastiff, in both the Rocky and Rocky II movies.

So, if you met him today, wouldn’t you expect to meet a somewhat older version of the Dick Butkus you’ve come to know about over the years? That is, an imposing figure who still lives in his hometown, Chicago, whose time is mostly spent enjoying the leisure activities of retirement, along with some dabbling in the worlds of sports and entertainment. That’s what I thought when my Wife, Ruth and I had the pleasure of meeting him recently at a MarriageTeam Tailgate Party & Auction. I will say that the qualities I expected to find in his makeup all seemed to be present and undiminished. However, I also got to start becoming acquainted with some dimensions of the man that were a pleasant surprise. One of these is a campaign he started, called Play Clean™. It’s a program that encourages teens to “train hard, eat well, and play with attitude”, instead of resorting to illegal steroids. His willingness to take this stand against steroids caused USA Today to comment that Butkus may have a greater impact on the game in his 60s (now 70s) than he did playing in his 20s. Continue reading

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Filed under character, commitment, community, Culture, entertainment, faith, Family, ideals, Love, Making a Difference, Marriage, society, Sports, Substance Abuse, values

Stand By Me at the Glassy Sea

Ron CoxRonald Ray Cox, a friend from the time of my birth, passed from life on Earth to life in eternity at about 8:32 a.m. (EST), October 19, 2013. Knowing that, it’s likely for you to think that I’m writing this to honor my friend and to tell you wonderful stories from a relationship that stretched out over nearly 70 years. Though I do want to honor my old friend, since there was a gap in our relationship from the time we finished college until about five months prior to Ron’s passing, when he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, I don’t have those nearly 70 years’ worth of stories to share. Thankfully, I do have the story to share of how I was blessed in reconnecting with Ron at the end of his life and getting to witness how he and his Wife, Kim, embraced God and each other through their final season together.

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, Christians, church, faith, Family, Friends, God, Heaven, Jesus, Love, Marriage, religion, Salvation, Sin

My Welcoming Committee

Grandpa & Grandma Ray

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What happens when a Christian passes from life on Earth to life in eternity? Surely, this is a question each of us considers, at some time, regardless of age or other life circumstances. I think it seems obvious, though, that as you recognize it’s likely you’re closer to the end than the beginning, you begin to give this more thought. I can’t pinpoint the moment this began with me but, some time after I had this realization, I began to consider a related hope that I defined as My Welcoming Committee.

First, let me state clearly that the hope I have in My Welcoming Committee is not supported by Scripture. By the same token, there’s nothing in the Bible that teaches against it. So, I continue to cling to that hope as something that God, quite possibly, may have in mind, as a reward.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

My Welcoming Committee is, simply, this: A gathering of those who arrived in Heaven before me, who played a role in pointing me to God’s gracious gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Although I see them as being there for me, to greet me as I arrive, the reward that I see God having in mind with this is for them. Their reward, for the role they played in leading me to salvation, is that they get to usher me into the presence of Jesus, to introduce us face-to-face.

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My Singing Partner, Pastor Chuck

Thursday morning, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM) noted the passing of Pastor Chuck Smith by posting the following image and message:

Pastor Chuck

Our beloved Pastor Chuck went home to be with the Lord around 3:00 o’clock this morning. He passed into eternity peacefully in his sleep. We rejoice that he has moved out of his worn out tent and into his heavenly body. On behalf of the family, his children, and Kay, they are so appreciative of all your love, prayers and support. We praise the Lord that we will all be together again some day!

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Due to his passing, there is a lot of information about Pastor Chuck available right now. This includes what the media have to say about his life and his passing, as well as countless “Pastor Chuck stories”, being shared by those who knew him. Since I’d be hard pressed to identify a better role model, along the lines of the ones I pointed to in my recent article entitled God’s UPS Drivers , I want to encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to learn as much as you can about this man.

I’m not going to attempt to add to what the media is presently providing on Pastor Chuck. Instead, for those who would benefit from having a bit of a thumbnail sketch about Pastor Chuck, I want to share the following message that my Pastor, Daniel Gettemy, of Calvary Chapel Downtown (Vancouver, WA), sent out about Chuck’s passing: Continue reading

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Faith … In The World Economy

As you might expect, over the past couple of weeks, Figgins and I have had several discussions about our nation’s financial crisis, that quickly spread to world markets. Since Figgins is a true Millennial, his experience with this sort of thing is next-to-none. Though I’m older, by an order of magnitude, I’m still just a Baby Boomer. I don’t have the experience of the Great Depression and my business expertise hasn’t been in Finance so I haven’t had solutions to offer, with confidence. However, I have been able to pass along some observations of differing reactions to these circumstances and I think that’s been meaningful to him.

One related occasion involved meeting with the VP of Sales of a $Billion+ firm. This is a man who is at retirement age but he’s considering postponing his retirement due to the current economy. I suspect that his compensation plan is pretty healthy and he mentioned that he’s in the process of having a vacation home built abroad so it didn’t seem that he was in imminent danger of going broke. When he told me of a night he had spent “from 8:00 in the evening until 4:00 in the morning, calling Stock Brokers, with all (his) financial papers spread out around (him)”, it was obvious that he is scared, nearly senseless, of the economy’s uncertainties. In sympathy, I shared with him that these are the sort of times when I’m especially appreciative of the peace I have, as a man of faith. I told him that my slogan is, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds but I know Who holds tomorrow.” And, I went on to say that I like to look at the sun when it comes up in the morning and realize that I had absolutely nothing to do with that happening. My point is that I don’t have any more control over the world economy than I do of the sun coming up in the morning so why should I worry about one more than the other. Sadly, he wasn’t open to what I had to say and his anxiety seemed to remain, as we parted.

On another occasion, we heard from a couple who are friends from our church “back home”. Their first message asked us to join them in praying about a situation that involved a relative who is out of work, who lost his home and who, along with his Wife and dog, is being evicted from his apartment because he’s now out of money even for rent. Now, our friends were being asked to take in the relative, the Wife and the dog. Of course there are many things to consider in a situation like this and we don’t know all the particulars but we do know that our friends both have full-time jobs, they’ve been struggling for the past few years to try to buy a home of their own and one of them has asthma and allergies so having a dog around is not ideal. Today, we heard from our friends, thanking us for our prayers and letting us know of their decision to have the relative move in, along with his Wife and dog. They have committed to covering all the costs, “including dog food”, without any payback to be done so that the relative can “save his money & get a job”.

Finally, I told Figgins that it was these sort of experiences that led me to Luke 9:57 – 10:2 for our time in the Word, at this past Saturday’s Calvary Chapel – Vancouver – Married Couples Fellowship Event. That concludes with, “Then He said”“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” My added encouragement was that this is a GREAT TIME! Its a time when you can truly bless others by sharing your faith. I don’t know that the words I spoke in sympathy with the VP of Sales will have any impact. I pray that they will. Likewise, I pray that the Lord will use the up-close view our friends’ relatives (and others) are getting of what faith can do. And, for you, my Christian Brothers and Sisters who are reading this, I pray that, in this time of uncertainty in the world, you’ll be especially watchful for opportunities to witness through the way you live. When those around you are shaking like a leaf and they turn to look at you, to see someone who is at peace, they’re certain to wonder, “What do they have that I don’t?” and that will lead to eternal blessing!

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God’s Laughter

The opening line in the movie “Bella” is, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” As I’ve reflected on our plans, about three years ago, to move from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest and consider how that matches up with how things have actually gone, this thought has seemed most fitting.

Our present circumstances are quite different than what we had in mind and some might look at this and say, “Yes, God’s laughing … in derision.” That isn’t the way I see it though. First, that isn’t accurate of God’s nature. There’s nothing to indicate that He would laugh in derision at anyone, especially not at His own children. I think a more correct understanding of God’s laughter is along the lines of my spontaneous laughter when I’m working in my home-office and I turn to see our Corgi/Pug in the easy chair behind me, laying upside-down, displaying total inhibition and relaxation. I laugh because his sweet, innocent, unconditionally loving nature lightens my heart and I delight in loving the little character. Second, while having our plans not work out as we had in mind can be challenging, we rejoice in knowing what God tells us about His plans for us – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11. We’re thankful that God is in our lives and that His plans are far better than we can begin to imagine.

For me, the best example of this, in our present circumstances, is how things are working out for us in our jobs. Basically, our plan was for me to find a job where my years of experience could “make a difference” in a Consultative Sales organization. For Ruth, our plan was for her to be in a position to not work unless she just wanted to.

Frankly, I don’t have an understanding of the “end-game” that God is going for in His plan for my work but I can see that He is doing a lot more than I had in mind. With my plan, I would’ve found the right job within the first couple of months and I would only have developed relationships with my coworkers, as well as with my company’s business contacts. Instead, God’s plan has led me to enthusiastically strive to become more and more a part of the local business community. In the process, I’ve become a part of several local business and social organizations, I’ve developed relationships with hundreds of people in the local business community, I’ve refreshed many existing relationships and I’ve renewed numerous relationships where I’d been “out of touch”, in some cases for many years. I’ve, also, honed skills and done a lot of learning, which will enable me to perform on the job in ways that I couldn’t have without having gone through these circumstances.

For me, what has happened with Ruth’s work has been the most exciting though. I suppose that’s because God’s “end-game” with this is easier to see. At first, Ruth decided that she wanted to work in sort of a “Temp” capacity, because she was getting bored. Then, as I’ve continued to struggle in finding a “right fit” job for me, she decided to accept the offer of a full-time position, to provide some hedge against my circumstances harming our financial future. The position she accepted has her working with elementary-school-aged children who have chronic emotional and behavioral problems. Of course, the nature of that work means I must be very circumspect in sharing information about it. Let it suffice to say that, when we discuss her day, we often find ourselves responding to the circumstances that these kids live in by saying, “Without God, he/she doesn’t stand a chance.” To me, its clear that one way God is making sure they get a chance is by touching them through Ruth and that He has much more in mind with this than just guarding our nest egg.

So, we’re pretty sure that the plans we made have resulted in God’s laughter. Since, unlike God, we can’t see the end from the beginning, that makes some days more challenging than others. But, in general, it keeps us reminded of a personal slogan I pulled out of a song that a wonderful Christian Sister sang at our wedding, years ago, in Huntington Beach. The slogan is, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds but I know Who holds tomorrow and we’re safe in His hands.” Knowing this and that God’s laughter is really the result of His love for us, lightens our hearts and keeps us moving forward, in faith.

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